Poor judgment

By From page A4 | May 30, 2012

From a May 11 story in the Sacramento Bee about a fraud suspect arrested in Mexico by the FBI comes this item of interest about appointed Judge Warren Stracener of El Dorado County:

“Warren Stracener, the sitting judge who is (Joseph) Hoffman’s other opponent, said he had been in communication with Kerekes and considered what Hoffman did ‘highly questionable conduct.’”

That’s Kathleen Kerekes who in 2009 won a $4.5 million judgment against the fraud suspect and said she left a voicemail message in 2010 with the attorney who is said to have a trust account for the man who faces a federal criminal complaint. We won’t even get into what kind of lawyer thinks a voicemail message constitutes formal notification and authority to seize a trust account.

What bothers us is the fact that a sitting Superior Court judge is having ex parte communication with an attorney about a case over which he has no jurisdiction, a case now in federal court.

We call that poor judgment. At the least it is unseemly.

Even seedier is the sleazy hit piece Stracener mailed out that made the outrageous claim of fraud and money laundering. All this because of an account held in trust by the attorney.

Stracener, a state government lawyer for the Personnel Department before his appointment to the bench here doesn’t seem to have a working knowledge of attorney-client trust accounts.

Here is what persons of note say about trust accounts for clients:

“It’s an extremely common practice. It’s the client’s money” held in a trust fund. Such accounts operate “literally every day, every week, as a function of the law practice,” said McGregor Scott, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California.

“You are required to have a trust account” as a lawyer, said Superior Court Judge Douglas Phimister. “It’s not for hiding money; it’s for holding to give out for a given purpose.”

District Attorney Vern Pierson said he had told Stracener’s campaign after seeing the mailer in advance and its accusations that it was a “complicated case about nothing.”

“For someone who calls himself a Superior Court judge, it’s sad and pathetic to disparage someone without substantiation,” Pierson told the Mountain Democrat Thursday.

Judges are people like the rest of us only with a law degree. We invest a lot of trust in those we choose as judges. A person who knows his way around a courtroom and knows judges and attorneys is bail bondsman Chuck Holland. He said it best when interviewed by staff writer Cole Mayer:

“Judges need to be beyond reproach. They make decisions on your life, your family, your property. There needs to be no doubt they are qualified, competent and honest,” Holland said.

That describes Joseph Hoffman, our choice for Superior Court judge — beyond reproach, qualified, competent and honest.

Mountain Democrat

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